The Centre on Saturday reiterated that the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic was not over yet, amid a surge in tourists to hill stations.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla held a meeting with top officials of Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal to review the steps taken by the states to stop crowding at tourist hotspots.
“Union home secretary sounded a note of caution in view of media reports showing blatant disregard of Covid-appropriate behaviour in hill stations and other tourist locations,” a statement said. “States should ensure strict adherence to the protocols prescribed in respect of wearing of masks, social distancing and other safe behaviour.”
The case positivity rate in certain districts of Rajasthan, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh was over 10%, raising concerns, the government said.
Crowding in hill stations
Several states have eased restrictions on travel as daily coronavirus cases started declining in the last two months. However, experts have warned that India is still reeling from the disastrous second wave of the pandemic and violation of guidelines can lead to grave results.
On Saturday, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami directed hotels in Nainital and Dehradun to cap the occupancy at 50%, ANI reported. “Challans are being issued to those who aren’t wearing masks,” Dhami said. “We are making efforts and will follow guidelines to contain spread of virus.”
This came a day after the district authorities in Dehradun restricted the number of tourists in Mussoorie’s Kempty Falls to 50 after a video emerged of a crowd bathing at the popular spot without observing any Covid-19 protocols.
On Wednesday, the Uttarakhand High Court had directed the state government to review its decision to relax Covid-19 restrictions. The court expressed concern about the influx of tourists into the state.
A day before that, the Centre took note of crowding at hill stations and warned that it will re-introduce Covid-19 curbs.
“People are indulging in revenge travel with restrictions being lifted,” Lav Agarwal, health ministry joint secretary, had said. “The infection is still very much present. If people do not wear masks and [do] not maintain physical distancing, it could nullify all the gains we have made so far in terms of Covid management.”